- Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Writer
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So what if Wonder Bread is now the front-runner to sponsor major college football's first postseason playoff?
On Tuesday, FBS conference commissioners announced the College Football Playoff will replace the Bowl Championship Series when a new four-team playoff goes into effect at the end of the 2014 regular season.
While the new name might lack creativity and imagination -- and let's face it: it's about as dry as white bread -- doesn't it get right to the point? At least it's tastefully simple and, more importantly, doesn't sound anything like the BCS.
Hey, there's a reason the NBA has the NBA playoffs and the NFL puts on the NFL playoffs. It's a playoff.
Sure, the commissioners might have gone with a sexier name, like the Football Final Four or College Football Championship. But if the SEC already had dibs on the SEC championship game, it really doesn't matter what the commissioners call the new playoff (In case you forgot, SEC teams have won each of the last seven BCS national championships).
Ask Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany what happens when you try to get creative and cute with branding. When the Big Ten added Nebraska as its 12th team before the 2011 season, it split into divisions and dubiously named them "Legends" and "Leaders." The Big Ten was ridiculed from coast to coast for being arrogant and pompous. When Maryland and Rutgers join the Big Ten in 2014, the league is expected to rename its divisions "East" and "West."
It seems the FBS commissioners learned from the Big Ten's mistake when they decided what to call the sport's new playoff.
"I'll be happy with whatever," Delany told reporters at the BCS meetings in Pasadena, Calif., on Tuesday. "Obviously, I'm not great with names."
Here's the point: it's not about the name; it's about the product and the event. It's about where the games will be played, when they'll be played, and which teams will play in them. Now it's up to the FBS conference commissioners to take the BS out of the BCS and deliver what college football fans have been wanting for more than a decade.
So far, it seems like the commissioners are getting most of it right, if not for the lackluster name.
On Wednesday, the commissioners are expected to announce that Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas -- the billion-dollar home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and the AT&T Cotton Bowl -- will host the first national championship game on Jan. 12, 2015. Is there really a better venue to host college football's first national championship game after a playoff? Everything is bigger in Texas -- and no place is bigger than "JerryWorld" -- and the first title game will be a weeklong extravaganza.
The commissioners are also reportedly expected to announce that college football hotbeds Atlanta and Dallas, along with Glendale, Ariz., will join the rotation of three other cities that will host the national semifinal games over the course of the 12-year deal. The BCS announced in January that the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans will host college football's first national semifinals on Jan. 1, 2015. Sources tell ESPN that the Orange Bowl in Miami and the Cotton Bowl will host in 2016, and the Fiesta and Chick-fil-A bowls will be hosts in 2017).
The FBS commissioners reached a geographical balance in choosing cities that will host the semifinals: Glendale and Pasadena are in the West; Dallas and New Orleans are centrally located; and Atlanta and Miami are in the East. Sure, Big Ten fans might continue to complain that there isn't a cold-weather city like Detroit, Indianapolis or St. Louis in the mix, but those cities didn't bid to host games.
What's the best part? The two national semifinals will be played on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day every year, instead of a Tuesday or Wednesday night in early January, after we've all gone back to work or back to school from the holidays. The four bowls that aren't hosting a semifinal game in a particular season will still host marquee, BCS-type games on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. Finally, college football is taking back what used to be its biggest day of the year.
Obviously, the commissioners must still tackle their most arduous task: choosing who will serve on a selection committee that is expected to include 14 to 20 members, according to BCS executive director Bill Hancock. The commissioners hope the committee will work like the NCAA men's basketball committee, which seeds and selects at-large bids for the 68-team basketball tournament. Each of the 10 FBS conferences will have at least one representative, along with as many as four to 10 at-large members.
Determining who will serve on the committee -- whether it's current athletics directors, former ADs or ex-coaches -- and figuring out what criteria they'll use to select the four teams that will play in the national semifinals is the linchpin in the entire deal. If the commissioners can't figure out a way to choose the teams as objectively as possible using criteria like schedule strength, conference championships, etc., then we'll be right back where we were in the dark days of the BCS.
If the commissioners get it right, the College Football Playoff should be a lot more fun than its name.
ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy contributed to this report.
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